Here is Michelle Obama today in Ohio, fresh from screwing up when she said she had been really proud of the US for the first time in her adulthood, wondering,
When was the last time we've had a presidential candidate of any gender or race or political party who pull together wins in places like Idaho and Utah and Louisiana and Georgia and Maine and Alaska and Missouri, and Illinois?" she said. "What we've been seeing over the course of this year is that folks are hungry for change. ... We've learned that in this nation with a little bit of hope and inspiration people do want to take hold of their destinies and move it in a different place. So yes, I am proud.
In the wake of Michelle Obama's comments and clarifications about her pride in America, I think it's appropriate to share a letter that first appeared on Democratic Daily earlier this month by a Canadian doctor who encountered Hillary after 9/11 at Ground Zero. I was incredibly moved by this personal account the first time I read it, and would like to see this side of Hillary highlighted more often.
Here is the letter in its entirety, link to follow:
"by Dr. Carolyn
February 8th, 2008 @ 9:38 pm
The following is an open letter to Senator Hillary Clinton, a woman who I consider an American Hero. I composed this letter with the hope that it might help undecided voters reach a decision. As outlined in the letter, I am Canadian and, therefore, have no personal gain from supporting Senator Clinton in the primaries in America. But, readers will note that meeting Senator Clinton at Ground Zero provided me with much comfort during a terrifying time.
I hope that all who read this letter will give it thought as you decide who you will support in this election:
Dear Senator Clinton: "I have been watching the primaries with great interest and am writing this letter in hopes that it might help your campaign. To introduce myself, I am a Canadian physician who has no voting ability when it comes to American elections. I have absolutely nothing to gain by testifying about your natural ability to lead the U.S. out of darkness.
As all are no doubt aware by now, on Tuesday, Michelle Obama twice used what I think to any objective observer was a politically unwise choice of words to describe her pride in her country at the precipice of what may turn out to be her husband's ascension to the Democratic nomination for president. Depending on what media outlet you were watching or which right-wing gasbag you were listening to bash her, what Obama said was either this:
"For the first time in my adult life I'm really proud of my country"
"For the first time in my adult life I'm proud of my country"
Why would she say something that so clearly would send anti-American dog whistle messages to those who, as Pat Buchanan put it, are "wired like" him and would be particularly pre-disposed to hearing that sentiment from a liberal, I have no idea. For me it brought back memories of the politically tin eared Teresa Heinz Kerry who really turned out to be a liability to John Kerry in 2004, but what was quite amazing (not to mention depressing) was that as the story played out on Tuesday, the conservative attacks on Obama's words weren't nearly as ridiculous as the liberal defense of them turned out to be. Obama fans rallied to Michelle's defense, essentially insisting that a. Obama's words were perfectly fine because she said the word "really" between "life" and "proud" and b. when confronted with videotape of her saying it without the "really," many insisted that MSNBC had edited the footage to remove it, because that word made all the difference, you see, and considering the media is almost as evil as Hillary Clinton, what other conclusion could one draw!? A really poorly written diary saying as much sky-rocketed to the top of the dailyKos Rec list until its author finally pulled the delusional piece of crap from the site altogether.
In reality, it turned out that Michelle Obama had spoken both variations at two different events on the same day, something that seemed fairly obvious to me when I saw the video of her saying it without the "really" (you can tell if video has been edited -- it clearly hadn't been) and heard MSNBC repeatedly report that Obama had used the words in multiple speeches. You can see two sets of comments side by side in the video below (h/t TPM):
Now some would at this point probably want to interject that there is also video where the "really" is garbled, clear evidence of editing by the evil media, which I think is silly because you can actually still hear what she said even in that version, but again this presumes that the "really" makes her comments any better, which it doesn't. Now, ultimately, Michelle Obama finally addressed what had become a pretty full-blown controversy at an appearance in Rhode Island yesterday, and I think she did it in a fairly effective way, not apologizing but just explaining what she meant, watch it below:
The reason I think it works is that, as Glenn Greenwald puts it, she was...
...able to render these attacks impotent, even cause them to backfire, because they and their propagators will appear to be so ugly and small and irrelevant in light of the type of candidate he is, the rhetoric he produces, the vision to which he aspires.
But there are a couple of concerns. First is the delusional nature of the defense of the comments by Obama supporters, who claimed not only that Obama didn't mean what the right was saying she meant but also that the "really" did make all the difference. First of all, since when does it really matter what she meant? A political gaffe need only exist in the eyes of the beholder and their ability to communicate their version of what the speaker meant. Secondly, the insistence that the addition of "really" in the comments made any difference at all and that the media surely had edited her comments to make it sound even worse really points to the problematic nature of some of the support Obama enjoys: many of his supporters believe the Obamas can do no wrong, period; imagine if such acrobatics had been performed to justify comments made by Bill Clinton this cycle? Never would have happened. The rush to judgment that results in anti-Clinton derangement is just as potentially dangerous as that which results from the pro-Obama derangement. I mean, really, so many of Obama's online supporters have alighted from the reality-based world and insist on defending Obama to any attack, regardless of the soundness of the argument but if he is the nominee, we're going to need to defend him against attacks in strong and logically sound ways and also hold him accountable when he screws up; this is why the blogosphere came into being, not to rubber stamp anything and everything a candidate says. If his legions of supporters are going to continue the blind allegiance, it's going to be really unhelpful in the fight ahead.
Secondly is the issue of whether the Obama campaign is responding swiftly enough to these attacks, or, as Jonathan Martin puts it, whether he is
...sufficiently aware of the danger that exists from the conservative Freak Show that did as much to beat John Kerry as George W. Bush did in 2004.
Now, as I said before, while Michelle's explanation of her remarks could have come sooner, I do think she effectively dealt with it, but what of the latest comments by Bill O'Reilly? From Media Matters:
"I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels"
Umm, what? As Keith rightly pointed out yesterday, and he still has his job?! I agree with Greg Sargent:
I mean, O'Reilly used the word lynching when talking about Michelle. Here you have a perfect opening for Michelle or a designated surrogate to deliver a toughly-worded -- and simultaneously high-minded -- response that nails O'Reilly directly between the eyes for his ugliness and pillories his wingnut colleagues for their phony piety and counterfeit patriotism. Remember how effectively Elizabeth Edwards made hash of Ann Coulter when she called John a "faggot"?
The Obamas obviously have the rhetorical dexterity to do something like this and more. If they did, it would go a long way towards taking the steam out of questions being raised by their rivals as to whether they have what it takes to survive a general election. Seems like a missed opportunity."
Seems to me that this was the first of what could be many tests of the effectiveness of both the Obama campaign and the blogosphere to respond to attacks on his campaign and I have to say I'm not really overflowing with confidence by either's performance.
"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."
and this is her subsequent "clarification"...
"What I was clearly talking about was that I'm proud in how Americans are engaging in the political process," she said. "For the first time in my lifetime, I'm seeing people rolling up their sleeves in a way that I haven't seen and really trying to figure this out -- and that's the source of pride that I was talking about," she added.
I love the part where she claims she was "clearly talking about" something completely different from what she said! It reminds me of Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass...
"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country."
"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country."
Maybe it's time Michelle Obama took a walk around Arlington National Cemetery, and thought about the 418,500 Americans who gave their lives to defeat the Nazis, and hundreds of thousands of others who never fully recovered from injuries sustained in that conflict, like my own father, and the 58,209 men and women who died in Vietnam and all the brave men and women who risk their lives under the American flag in Iraq and Afghanistan, however much their honest patriotism has been abused by criminals in the White House.
What did Michelle Obama or her blathering husband ever sacrifice for the United States of America?
I don't believe your "clarification," Michelle Obama! Anybody can make a mistake, and anybody can say something stupid, but it takes a special sort of arrogance to insult your country and then try to laugh it off with a bullshit cover-up of what you actually said.